You Are Not Brave, Just Different

Being brave is as personal as our fears.

Photo by Jack Sloop on Unsplash

I was about to get on the road. I was preparing the kick-off of my travel vlog but, first, I needed some shooting gear. I went to a shop and, during the conversation with the salesman, he asked me where I was headed. “Eastern Europe,” I replied enthusiastically. “Alone, as a girl? You’re brave!”

I’ve had people say this to me more times than I can count. They called me brave because I traveled alone, moved to foreign countries, or quit jobs. But never once did I feel brave for any of that.

Bravery is “the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty.” But I never felt danger, fear, or difficulty while doing any of these things. I guess what people mean when they call me brave is that doing those things would scare them. They would be brave if they undertook those challenges. I am just living my life.

When I see someone raising a child, I find them brave. Or getting married. Or enduring a 9–5 job for years. Doing any of that scares the hell out of me, so I would be incredibly brave if I ever did any of it. Yet, I am sure nobody would call me brave. Most people get married, have kids, and work office jobs for 40 years. I would be brave to do it. They are just living their life.

What we fear is as different as we are from each other. You might be afraid of the dark, of the unknown, of commitment, of loneliness. Whatever it is, it’s alright. But whatever others are afraid of is also okay.

Don’t underestimate others’ fears because you don’t get as scared. Acknowledge them, and make the people around you feel supported when they get out of their comfort zone — even if that means going to the restaurant alone, trying a different hairstyle, or speaking with someone who scares them. No fear is too small.

Likewise, don’t throw your fears at other people. Don’t remind them constantly how courageous they are because they do things that scare you. To themselves, they are not brave, and they don’t want to hear your patronizing words. Remember, being brave is as personal as our fears.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

— Neale Donald Walsch

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